3-Day Weekend Guide
Located within 75 minutes from Minneapolis, Mankato is a fun destination for families or for couples looking to get away for a weekend. It’s home to pristine wilderness, bike-friendly trails and fantastic museums. Mankato has a lot to offer year-round. Getting around in the city is easy: you can bike along a river, go kayaking and visit some fun local museums—all in a single day. The next time you have a long weekend, plan to spend it in Mankato, Minnesota. Here’s a three-day weekend guide to some of the top things to do and see in Mankato.
Mankato Weekend Guide: Day 1
When choosing how to start your weekend in Mankato, we suggest hitting the trails, either on bike or on foot. Why? Because Mankato is known for its impressive trail system and bike-friendly layout, making it easy to get to a variety of local attractions, all while experiencing the great outdoors. (The city’s slogan is, after all, “It’s all so close!”) Many of the bike shops in town allow you to rent bikes for both adults and kids. Start your journey at Red Jacket Bike Trail, a 13-mile route that takes you directly to Mankato’s City Center. On the way, you’ll notice several wooden bridges and gorgeous countryside scenes before seeing a glimpse of the city’s skyline. Once you’ve arrived at the City Center, try Dino’s Pizza (great for kids) or Pub 500 for lunch while storing your bike in one of the city’s many public bike racks as you explore.
Once you’re in the City Center, explore some of the local museums. The Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota is an ideal place to take kids who are curious about what it’s like to be a “grown-up.” There, they can play contractors, operate a sand pit, a moveable crane and a big conveyor system to build a miniature city in Coughlan Quarry. Afterwards, children can visit the Grow It Gallery, an indoor play center, to play farmers and gardeners by hopping aboard a tractor and learning farming techniques with life-like animals and plants. They can continue their farming experience outside to meet real livestock animals and to learn the process of collecting eggs and planting crops. However, for kids that wish to simply stay being a kid, a large indoor tree fort at the museum is the answer. The tree fort is so large that it extends to the roof, making it ideal for children to climb, swing and explore through roped tunnels.
Just outside the City Center is Minnesota State University, Mankato. The campus is picturesque with modern architecture, and you could spend an hour or two on a self-guided tour through the campus. After your tour, you won’t want to miss the Myers Field House for its indoor rock-climbing center that’s available year-round to both students and the community. Considered the largest indoor rock-climbing center in southern Minnesota, it tests adults and kids to see how far they can go while trying out several levels of difficulty. The wall stretches 2,000 square feet, and a certified climber are always available to assist smaller children. Families can also head outdoors to climb the outdoor pinnacle, a column of a well-designed rock for guests to tackle during nice weather days. Afterwards, head back to the City Center to end the night with a well-deserved dinner at one of the best local restaurants in Mankato.
Mankato Weekend Guide: Day 2
On your second day in beautiful Mankato, start your day at one of the area’s many breakfast cafes like Tandem Bagels for fresh bagels and coffee. Next stop, hop on your bike and ride down the Minnesota River Trail toward Sibley Park, a gorgeous protected park with its own petting zoo and multiple play areas (perfect for children). Recognized as having one of the coolest playgrounds in the state, the park has a barnyard-themed play area and a bright-red barn with its own garden full of ponds, bridges, trellises and more. Meet and greet some of the farm’s animals including ostrich, peacocks, goats, miniature horses, pigs, ducks and alpacas.
Next on the list, head eight minutes west along the river to Bent River Outfitter and rent kayaks (many include two-seaters to bring along children too young to paddle on their own). Paddle along the Minnesota River and get a glimpse of scenic nature views of countryside farmlands, lush meadows and impressive bridges. You will find plenty of ideal rest areas to dock your boat, venture on land and enjoy a picnic.
Mankato Weekend Guide: Day 3
Before returning home, see all the CityArt Greater Mankato has to offer. No matter where you are, art is close by! Public art can be found throughout the City Center in the form of sculptures, murals, monuments and other elements of interest, with some dating back to 1984. Families are encouraged to download the walking tour brochure to learn about the story and artists behind each piece. Take a break from the tour and tantalize your taste buds with a sweet treat from Mom & Pop’s Ice Cream Shop, which offers 32 homemade ice cream flavors.
How about a trip to a nature park loaded with bison and a breathtaking waterfall to wrap up your weekend adventure? Hop into your car and make your way to Minneopa State Park, a 4,600-acre preserve that’s home to the world-famous Minneopa Falls (considered the largest waterfall in southern Minnesota). Families can go across a bridge that suspends above the falls and get a spectacular view of Minneopa Creek and its surrounding wilderness. Travel through the enclosed 330-acre prairie at the park to see roaming bison, which have high-quality genetics descending from the type of bison Lewis and Clark gazed upon in the 1830s. Keep an eye out for the new bison babies, white-tailed deer, coyotes, beavers and more than 210 species of birds. Several trails are available for hiking throughout the park, and families can dine at some of its designated picnic areas for lunch. Bring fishing supplies, as dropping a line in its waters is permitted to catch freshwater catfish.